The end of November is nigh. The beginning of December, the final month of the calendar year, is imminent. The Metropolitan Division remains very competitive. Although, a divide has formed. At the top, there are two teams in fierce competition with a surprising third team not far behind either. The Carolina Hurricanes remain in first but only by tiebreakers (games played) at the moment. The following four teams are further back and some separation is forming among them. Then there is the New York Islanders, who have a lot of work to do to get back into the picture. Nothing is over, but just like the end of 2021, it will be happening before one knows it. In the meantime, here is how the division looks prior to today’s games:
Today’s games are of particular interest as there are two games within the division: a battle that could help set the tone for who can avoid being next to last for the week and a contest for the top spot of the division (for a little while at least). Here are the games coming up, with the games within the division highlighted and in bold:
Of note are the Islanders. They were originally scheduled to play against the New York Rangers today and the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. However, due to the team being set back with 7 players in COVID-19 protocols, the NHL has decided to postpone those two games. It could be argued the postponement should have come sooner. Some teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins could argue why they did not get games moved when they were beset by both COVID-19 and injuries earlier this season. All the same, the schedule reflects the postponed games.
What follows is the team-by-team breakdown for this week’s snapshot.
What Happened Last Week: Surprises happened. The Carolina offense dried up. This meant for close games and a sudden end to their winning streak in North California. Last Tuesday, Tony DeAngelo was the only scorer for the Canes against San Jose. Kevin Labanc tied it up and Alexander Barbanov provided the winner in overtime. Yes, the Hurricanes lost a game, 2-1. Yes, the Hurricanes lost beyond regulation for the first time this season that night. It would get worse. In Seattle on Wednesday night, the story was similar: Canes scored first, could not score again, and the home team tied it up. But the Kraken got the game-winner from Marcus Johansson late in the third period as the Hurricanes could not beat Phillip Grubauer (!!). The Hurricanes lost in regulation for the third time this season to the expansion team, 2-1. On Black Friday, the Canes returned to the East Coast to play Philadelphia. There, it seemed like the losing would continue as the Canes gave up a shorthanded goal and were behind 2-1 in the first period. Carolina would turn it around by out-scoring the Flyers 4-1 in the second to take a 5-3 lead going into the third. An extra goal in the third made it a 6-3 win. The Canes went 1-1-1 to not win their first week of this season. But the win keeps them ahead of Washington and New York for the time being.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Carolina is back at home for a huge game tonight. They will be hosting the Washington Capitals in about two hours after this post goes live. This could see a change at the top of the Metropolitan. Even if it goes awry for the Canes, it should not cause any panic. After all, Carolina would still have games in hand on Washington. And this week’s schedule would not change that. After today’s massive game, the Canes will hit the road again to Texas. They will play in Dallas on Tuesday. Then the Canes are back home to face Ottawa and Buffalo. On paper, the Canes could have a very successful week. Past weeks suggest they will do it again. Of course, the hardest part is to actually do it. Last week showed it is possible. But they remain in first with a remarkable record for a reason. They should still be seen as the favorites in these games - and maybe even today’s game.
SBN Blog: Canes Country
What Happened Last Week: Fresh off a 4-0 win in San Jose, the Capitals went up to Seattle on Sunday night. And they lost 5-2. Wait, what? They lost 5-2 to the Kraken? Tom Wilson scored first and then the Kraken ran up four straight goals. While Alex Ovechkin made it 4-2 in the third, Yanni Gourde put the game out of reach later that period. Wow. The Kraken knocked off the two best teams in the Metropolitan Division and the NHL. How about that? Anyway, the Capitals returned home on Wednesday night to play Montreal. This game ended 6-3 in favor of the team you would expect: Washington. Montreal never really threatened in the game once the Caps started to score. A fine bounce back win. The toughest game was last night: hosting Florida. While the Panthers have not been perfect on the road, the Panthers are still an excellent team. And the Caps managed to take care of business. Alex Ovechkin got hit in the face by a puck. He returned and put up a hat trick on the Panthers. Washington held on to win 4-3 - a massive result going into a big game today. The Caps won their week and continue to be on the heels of the Canes.
What’s Coming Up This Week: With Carolina reeling a bit, the Capitals have moved on up to really put pressure on Carolina in the standings. That makes today’s game in Carolina an absolutely big one. The Capitals are on the road. It will not be an easy one. But Washington has shown to be a very strong team in their own right. A win today would see them take first place and could try to hold onto it. They would not be safe with it without some help and taking care of business as the Canes do have games in hand on them. Plus, Washington’s schedule is not so easy. The Capitals will have to go to Sunrise on Tuesday. The Panthers have lost just once at home all season and they will likely want to avenge that blot on their record. Good luck, Caps. On Thursday, the Capitals will host Chicago and that should be a favorable match-up. Saturday night will be trickier: a home game against Columbus. The Blue Jackets are nobody’s doormats and they did make it close against the Capitals earlier in November. Still, the first step to taking over is to take a step forward and they can take a big step today. They put themselves in this position and Carolina’s recent failings only helped Washington.
SBN Blog: Japers’ Rink
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers kept pulling out results. Last Sunday, a fresher Rangers team (the Ottawa game on Saturday was postponed) hosted Buffalo. This one was close as both the Sabres and Rangers answered each goal scored with one of their own. There was a ridiculous two-minute stretch where both teams scored twice. Overtime seemed inevitable after a scoreless third period. Until Ryan Lindgren got one in with 0.7 seconds on the clock. Let that be a lesson: Play to the buzzer as well as the whistle. The Rangers won 5-4 in dramatic fashion. On Wednesday, the Rangers made their first appearance at the new UBS Arena to play their hated rivals in the Islanders. With the Isles reeling from COVID-19 and injuries, the Rangers took no pity. They rolled through the Isles with a 4-1 win with braces each from Chris Kreider (his stick is hot) and Kevin Rooney (really). The Manhattan squad spent Black Friday in Boston with an afternoon game on national television. It was close for two periods and ten minutes. Then the Rangers broke away in the third period with goals from Artemi Panarin, Alexis Lafreniere, and Jacob Trouba. The Rangers won in front of a big audience, 5-2. They swept their week of games and are now right behind the Capitals and Hurricanes for first in the division. With a seven point gap over fourth place, they are in a great spot in the standings.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Rangers will be home all week. With the postponement of the Islanders game originally scheduled for tonight, they will be idle until Wednesday when they start three games in four nights. This Wednesday, the Rangers will host Philadelphia. This game is also filled with rivalry feelings. It will have an impact on the division as the Rangers are that team separate from the four-some beneath them in the standings, which includes the Flyers. It will make for a good game. The Rangers’ week will end with an interesting back-to-back set: San Jose on Friday and Chicago on Saturday. The Rangers will have a schedule advantage for the first one with San Jose being in Long Island the night before. They will not for the Chicago game. Provided the Rangers keep on getting points, they will remain in a strong position to stay well ahead of any challengers to a top-three spot in the division - and guard against any slumps.
SBN Blog: Blueshirt Banter
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: The Blue Jackets went into Thanksgiving with a pair of big dubs. Last Monday, Columbus visited Buffalo. There were plenty of goals with two empty netters to boost it to 7-4 (it was 5-4 at second intermission). Jack Rosolovic got the party started and Oliver Bjorkstrand, Max Domi, and Vladislav Gavrikov scored within the first five minutes of the second period to build a lead that lasted in upstate New York. On Wednesday, the Blue Jackets hosted Winnipeg. They gave up nothing to the Jets. Nothing. Not one goal. Columbus scored 3-0 to sour Pierre-Luc Dubois’ return to Ohio and rack up two more points. After Thanksgiving, the Blue Jackets at a back-to-back set with Vancouver at home and St. Louis on the road. Friday night saw Rosolovic play an important role with a tie-breaking goal in the third period to make it 3-2 as Elvis Merzlikins stopped a lot of rubber from Vancouver. The Blue Jackets prevailed 4-2. Last night, the Blue Jackets were in St. Louis. This was a tougher game. While Boone Jenner scored first on a power play, St. Louis responded with three straight goals in the second period. Adam Boqvist scored another PPG in the third period, but that was also responded with three more goals by St. Louis. The Blue Jackets lost 6-2, preventing them from a perfect week. The loss also kept them even on points with Pittsburgh; ahead only on games played. They are also not too far away from New Jersey or Philadelphia while also missing out on getting closer to New York. Still, a 3-1-0 week is a very good result and further shows that Columbus is legit.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Blue Jackets will stay on the road this week. They will be in Nashville on Tuesday, Dallas on Thursday, and then Washington on Saturday. The Blue Jackets have been in good form as of late. They could be looking real sharp going into Saturday’s game in Washington D.C. Columbus was tabbed by many to finish last in this division. With each passing week, that is looking less and less likely. That is what happens when a team regularly piles up points. Let us see how far they can keep it going. Again, they are a legit team and they earned their way to a position where they can play a lot of meaningful games in 2022.
SBN Blog: The Cannon
What Happened Last Week: Like Columbus, the Pittsburgh Penguins went into Thanksgiving with two more wins under their belt. Last Monday saw the Penguins go to Manitoba to play the Jets. They left with a 3-1 win. It was close as Tristan Jarry was finally beaten in the first period by Dominic Toninato. But Jason Zucker tied it up in the second, Danton Heinan broke the tie in the third, and Jake Guentzel provided a big insurance goal. On Wednesday night, the Pens returned home against a freefalling Vancouver team. After a scoreless first, the Penguins put the game out of doubt in the second period. Bryan Rust on a power play early; Evan Rodrigues closer to the midway mark; and Zach Aston-Reese late in the period. Vancouver got a consolation goal and the Pens won 4-1, entering the holiday with four straight wins. On paper, it looked like the good times would keep rolling as they were to play a slumping Islanders team and a struggling Montreal team. Against the Islanders, they could only get one goal. Thanks to Jarry, they only needed Kasperi Kapanen’s second period goal to make it five wins in a row. The surprise came last night. Montreal was leading Pittsburgh 1-0 after two periods. And not long after Rodrigues tied it up, Montreal scored again. Artturi Lehkonen made it 3-1 for Montreal. Things went nuts on the scoresheet within the final three minutes. Jeff Carter pulled Pittsburgh within one, Montreal’s Josh Anderson restored the two goal lead, Sidney Crosby scored within a minute to make it 4-3, Anderson scored within a minute again to make it 5-3, and Tyler Toffoli sealed the game at 6-3. Yes, Pittsburgh had a winning streak blown to Montreal. Yes, Montreal! 50 shots on net, 3 in the net, and a 3 goal loss. I can hardly believe it. It denied a perfect week in the standings for Pittsburgh. It denied them a chance to set themselves further ahead from New Jersey and Philadelphia and closer to New York. But a 3-1-0 week is certainly nothing to complain about. Still. Montreal. Wow.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Penguins are going out to Western Canada this week. They will visit Calgary on Monday. Calgary has found a lot of success against this division this season. Bouncing back over a loss to Montreal of all teams would be great. However, if the Penguins can get anything there, then that would be an achievement in of itself. On Wednesday, the Pens will visit Edmonton. Only one team has beaten Edmonton at home this season. Like with Calgary, any result from there would be an accomplishment. Pittsburgh’s week will end in Vancouver. Again, the Canucks are just a mess right now so if there is a time to visit them, it is now. But these road trips have a way of being harder than it seems, so nothing should be a seen as a gimmie. Pittsburgh’s trip will continue beyond this week, but these three games will set the tone and perhaps the total of the trip.
SBN Blog: PensBurgh
What Happened Last Week: It was a short week for the Devils with just two games to play. Both bracketed Thanksgiving. The home game was on Thanksgiving Eve to Minnesota. The Wild went up early with two goals. The Devils pounded the rock. They ultimately broke through with goals by Pavel Zacha and the now-not-cold Yegor Sharangovich. The latter was a 6-on-5 goal. Alas, the 40 shots and 4 posts were not enough to put three past the Wild and overtime required a shootout. As with many Devils games ending in shootouts, they did not score and got beat within the first three rounds. The Devils lost 3-2. The road game was on Black Friday in Nashville. Against their old head coach, John Hynes pretty much out-coached Lindy Ruff and the Devils’ energy level was somewhere between ‘nothing’ and ‘not much.’ Nashville went up early, took a lead, held the Devils to 9 shots in the first two periods, and never really let control of the game. The Devils scored two consolation goals in a 4-2 loss. The Devils took 1 out of 4 points in this short week. While they have games in hand on Pittsburgh, they are now a bit further behind them and Columbus. If it was not for the Flyers’ really bad week, they could be in seventh. The Devils may be showing well to some, but if they want to avoid slipping into a void, they need more and soon.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Getting more and soon is very possible as the Devils will be much busier in this coming week. They will even use up one of their games in hand on Philadelphia, Columbus, and Pittsburgh. In fact, they will play one of them tonight. The Devils will host Philly in what should be a rousing affair. The Devils will end November at home to San Jose, whom they beat in a shootout (!!) earlier this month. The Devils’ December will begin on the road with a back-to-back away from home. Thursday night will be in Minnesota, wherein the Devils will try to do better than they did last Wednesday against the same opponent. Friday night will have the Devils in Canada for the first time since the 2019-20 season; they will visit Winnipeg. The Devils have been in the mix. They just need to avoid falling behind and ideally work their way ahead of Philly (get a lead on them), Columbus, and Pittsburgh before aiming higher.
SBN Blog: All About the Jersey - you’re here now. Thank you for that. You matter.
What Happened Last Week: On paper, this was not going to be an easy week for Philadelphia. Three games in four nights against three of the best teams in the NHL, nevermind just the East. In reality, the paper turned out to be correct about the difficulty. Last Tuesday, the Flyers visited Tampa Bay. The Lightning gave them nothing on the scoreboard. As in, Andrei Vasilevskiy shut them out whilst Corey Perry and Zach Bogosian scored their first goals of the season. Philadelphia lost that one 4-0. On Wednesday night, Florida hosted the Flyers. The Flyers would score a goal in this game - Joel Farabee did so in the first period. That would be it for Flyers scoring. Sam Bennett tied it up in the third and Aaron Ekblad scored in OT to keep the Panthers perfect at home. (Aside: That perfect home record by Florida ended last night to Seattle of all teams) This meant a 2-1 loss for Philly. On Black Friday, the Flyers would host Carolina - the best team in the NHL in terms of record. It started well with a goal by Ivan Provorov 50 seconds into the game and a shorthanded to make it 2-1 in the first period. But the Canes responded. Not even a Risto Ristolainen goal could stave off the Carolina machine. The Hurricanes put up four in the second, another goal in the third, and the Flyers’ week endeded with a 6-3 loss. The Flyers fall in the standings due to earning one point out of a possible six against three of the best teams in the NHL.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Flyers’ week will get easier on paper. As Tuesday’s game is now postponed, the Flyers will get a full two days between games this week. Both games are important. They are both within the division against teams that their fans can at least historically describe as rivals. Also, they are not as tough as Carolina, Tampa Bay, or Florida. Tonight, the Flyers will head to New Jersey to play the Devils. The Devils have been able to make some comebacks and keep games close on the scoreboard. Not an easy game in theory. The Flyers will follow that by going to Manhattan on Wednesday night to play the Rangers. That will be a difficult test, but perhaps the one with the greatest reward: pulling down the Rangers to the competitive middle while trying to elevate the Flyers above them. Both teams should be well-rested for this game, so it should make for a fascinating contest. After that, the Flyers are idle for the remainder of this week so they can rest up for an even busier week after this one. If the Flyers continue to falter and not earn more points, that could get ugly real fast.
SBN Blog: Broad Street Hockey
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: This was supposed to be the grand return of the Islanders to Long Island. A week where they can be in a comfortable place, supported by their passionate fanbase, and pick up some points. Instead, the Isles went into their grand opening of UBS Arena with losses and have yet to recover. On Sunday, Toronto came to visit the Isles. The Islanders were shut out by the visiting Maple Leafs, 3-0. On Wednesday, their biggest and most hated of rivals, the Rangers, visited. The Rangers took them down in a 4-1 game that was clearly one-sided. Last night, they hosted the Penguins. This one was closer, but still another loss. They could not beat Tristan Jarry. They could not match Kasperi Kapanen’s goal. They lost 1-0 for their eighth straight loss. The Isles have been hurting, ill, and just plain slumping. They are at the bottom looking up at the rest of the Metropolitan. It is just tough right now for the Orange and Blue.
What’s Coming Up This Week: As noted in the beginning of this post, the Islanders had their first two games scheduled for this week postponed. The league is hoping the Isles can recover in time for Thursday night’s game against San Jose. It is a home game as the Sharks are going through the area. After that, the Isles will head away from home to go to Michigan. They will play a Detroit team that has been quite good in their home building this season. First and foremost, the team does need to recover. Second, the Isles have to find a way to get some points soon. They are falling behind very quickly in this division. If the slump continues, they may find out the hard way how difficult it is to work your way up from last. The now-shortened week does not help that, but getting a win to end the losing streak is paramount if and when they do take to the ice.
SBN Blog: Lighthouse Hockey
That was the seventh Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2021-22 season. What do you expect to happen in this week coming up? Who will take first place between Carolina and Washington? Will the Rangers crash into that conversation for first? Will Columbus and Pittsburgh continue to pull away from New Jersey or Philadelphia, or will this week see some course correction? Will the Islanders get their first win at UBS Arena when they hopefully return to playing on December 2? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the eight teams in the week that was and the week ahead in the comments. Thank you for reading.